19th November 2013

Blog: Driving in Ice and Snow

Look after You

Decide how necessary your journey is? Cancel if at all possible.

Dress for the weather. Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions so as you are not compromise should you have to get out of your vehicle – the same for your passengers.

Don’t overdress if driving. Wearing bulky clothing/hat/scarf and gloves can limit your range of control and heat you up too much. It is better to warm up your vehicle prior to moving off.

Carry a High-viz vest/jacket in the driver’s door pocket in case you have to get out in traffic or open road area. Also carry one for each of your passengers.

Have a quality pair of sunglasses for combating the effects of sun glare of white and shiny surface.

Keep your mobile phone charged with an in-car charger.

Inform family/friends of your route and ETA.

Bring your Satellite Navigation with you. You can give your exact location to your Breakdown Service provider should it be required. Smart phones have navigation facility.

Know your Car

Know if your car is driven through the front wheels, the rear wheels or is 4-wheel drive. This will give you an indication of how your car will respond to icy, slippery roads. All will behave differently as the cars weight, the drivers input and physical nature of the road will have a direct influence.

ABS, EBD, EBA, ESC, TCS – Know your Car’s Systems

The owner's manual or your Service Manager will provide information about your car’s electronic monitoring systems. As not all cars carry the same systems, find out which type of electronic monitoring systems your vehicle is equipped with.

Pay particular attention to the Battery, Tyres, Wipers, Lighting, Ventilation/Heating system, Windscreen Washer Fluid and its general road worthiness.

Always ensure you have enough fuel to cope with an emergency, remembering you may be stationary for a number of hours with the engine running.

Keeping your Grip

Keeping tyre-grip to its maximum in extreme conditions is vital. The layer of frozen water between your tyres and the road surface reduces your cars ability to Brake, Steer and Accelerate normally.

Think and plan about the affect descents, ascents and road camber will have on your vehicles behaviour.

REMEMBER: You cannot defy the laws of Physics!!!

All inputs by you must therefore be smooth and well though out so as to avoid the tyres losing the grip they need to keep it under your control.

Don’t ‘Target-Fix’ where you are staring at fixed spots or objects. Look for you escape route always.

When following another driver make sure you can see what is dictating their progress; are they showing signs of competency, nervousness, aggression, stupidity? This means you should keep a prudent distance from the vehicle directly in front of you.

Don’t let someone else’s actions walk around inside your head!!

Remember in icy conditions that you may be able to stop the wheels, but your vehicle keeps going!!!

Build a safe distance into your drive – you may have to take avoiding action because of another road user.

Get your speed down on the approach. Don’t leave it too late to act!!

Try and avoid mixing your Braking, Steering and Acceleration, as the amount of grip available is only sufficient for probably one at a time. Any overlap must be smooth and well thought out.

Do this by recognising your need to reduce speed early – Decelerate, then Brake smoothly and gently – Steer into the turn smoothly, being aware that some minor sliding may occur as the car WANTS to keep going straight. Expect a delayed response on the steering.

If skidding takes place, gently reduce the amount of steering you have applied until you have regained control.

The key is to keep the wheels rolling once on the move.

Plan well ahead so you don’t have to come to a complete halt thereby risking not being able to move off again.

Front Wheel Drive

Front wheel drive vehicles are better than rear wheel drive in icy conditions because the weight of the engine on the front wheels, thereby improving traction.

Know if your car is diesel or petrol. Use the torque of the engine and not the revs.

Rear Wheel Drive

With minimal weight over the rear wheels, rear wheel drive cars have great difficulty in keeping stability in icy conditions.

This can cause the car to slide out on corners where the rear wheels push the car straight instead of in the direction of steering.

Placing bags of sand in the boot can improve traction.


Don’t panic if you hear a loud grating noise coming from the brakes – that is the ABS activating. ABS automatically pumps the brakes keeping the wheels from locking.


Traction Control System monitors the driven wheels of your car and its grip during acceleration. When it detects wheel slippage, it will cut power to the wheels and prevent them over spinning.

When Grip is Lost:

Firstly recognise ‘What caused the skid?’ It could be; too much acceleration; through braking or because of steering. Having recognised the cause, the driver must then smoothly ‘Remove it!’

Should the car slide on as it is being steered to the left, the rear will slide to the right, wanting to go straight in effect. The driver should then steer smoothly to the right, easing off the throttle and always being ready for a secondary skid as the car comes back into line.

Other Tips

Clear all snow and ice from your car prior to moving off. Ensure all windows and lights are also clear

Drive on dipped headlights, not parking lights, when driving in an ice or snow storm. 

You simply have not got the grip for normal driving when there is snow or ice on the roadway. Allow for greater STOPPING DISTANCE during snow and ice. Allow 8-10 seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you.

Remember that POSTED SPEED LIMITS are not targets and should only to be followed during ideal weather conditions. Slow down while driving on snow or ice.

When driving UPHILL on ice, pick a path that will allow the most traction. Monitor vehicles in front of you and steer clear of areas where they spin wheels or slide backward. Don’t follow another vehicle uphill – wait until they have cleared, otherwise if they stop you have no choice!!

Unpacked snow will give most vehicles sufficient uphill traction.

Maintain your tyres. Check them for ‘Wear ’n Air’. Tyres that are in proper working condition and are adequately inflated provide better traction.  Don’t forget about your spare!!

Be Smooth. Everything you do on icy roads will affect how your vehicle handles the situation. Steer smoothly. Turn smoothly. Brake smoothly. Sudden abrupt changes can cause your car to skid.

Driver’s Boot-Pack

  • Battery jumper leads
  • First aid kit
  • Shovel
  • Basic tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver and knife)
  • Blankets Extra clothing (hats, socks, boots, mittens)
  • Flashlight
  • Bag of sand/old piece of carpet/Bag of Kitty-litter(grit)

The following should be carried in the car:

  • Mobile phone and car charger
  • Sat-Nav
  • High Viz vests for all in door pockets
  • Quality anti-glare Sunglasses
  • Warm, waterproof outer Jacket/trousers
  • Warm headwear
  • Gloves
  • Blankets (just in case)

By Tony Toner, BeepBeep.ie Motoring Correspondent.

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